Had some time this weekend to make my way through the astonishing backlog of unscanned stuff. I have decided to apply for a Smithsonian Institute franchise. They give those out, right?
"Hello, I’m an American, and I have a lot of things whose cultural significance is minimal, but still important. At least in my estimation. I can make the case for all these things, but that’s the Song of the Hoarder, I know. But it’s not junk! Really, if it was junk, I would’ve thrown it away. Well, I would have put in the basement. Well, a box that eventually goes in the basement."
|This is emblematic of an era, no? Your menu of consumables for your time in the realm of the gods. A cold drink, a fresh orange - a piece of fruit lofted 30,000 feet into the air! - and a good strong cigarette. A cigarette to smoke in a sealed tube.
Let us consider the possibility that this is the only one left on earth.
It’s possible. It’s not likely, but it is possible. There were hundreds of thousands printed, of course, but most went into the trash. Perhaps 5% were kept as souvenirs. Of those, most went . . . in the trash, when the kids were going through Mom’s Stuff and found this, and didn’t know why the hell she saved that, but she was like that, she saved the oddest things. And she didn’t even smoke! She didn’t drink much, either! Well, as far as anyone knew.
The kids would want to know if it was worth anything. They could tell at a glance that it wasn’t, because it didn’t look old. Maybe it went into the pile of unremarkable stuff at the estate sale.
Someone bought it. Paid a dollar. You never know who wants that stuff. They’re weird. Harmless, though, I suppose. A bit sad. Showing up and shuffling around and poking through everything. What are they looking for?
Little did they know that there was one man, impossibly rich, who had dispatched agents around the country to find this exact item. He knew when it was in use, and he had, at significant expense, secured the passenger manifests from company records, from particular routes and dates. He never told his agents why he wanted it. Of course, they speculated. Perhaps it contained a secret code that only an agent of the Swiss Intelligence Division would know. Did the Swiss have a CIA or MI-5? Sure. Everyone had them. You think of the Swiss as just sitting up there in the mountains minding the banks or tending goats or making chocolate or clocks or chocolate clocks, but when you think about it, they’re neutral, and that means you to have intelligence on everyone. You’d need twice the force.
The agent gets the menu, and thinks:
“The orange is open towards the left. That means the Soviets may be moving mobile launchers into East German under cover of agricultural equipment repositioning. Confirm and report.”
No, they could just tell that to the agent at the home office when he pays a visit, moneypennies his hat, goes in to talk to the boss. Perhaps the stewardess gives the agent this card, with the left-facing orange, to signal to the agent that there is a member of the KGB on board. She’d have to be in on it. Maybe the Swiss secret service had placed a stew on every flight, just in case.
Imagine the person in the adjacent seat looking over and saying “that’s odd. Look at that. Your orange is pointing in a different direction than the one on my menu.”
The agent would pretend not to notice, then notice, and say “I imagine they’re all a bit different in their own way, perhaps.”
“No, I don’t think so. I’m in the business. I design brochures. You want standardization in every aspect, so you’re certain they all put forth the same information. Can I look at yours?” He compares it to his. “Ah - look here. The price of the wine is lower on yours. They must have run off a batch of new ones with the new price, but yours was hanging around the galley. They changed the position of the orange so the stewardesses would know they were handing out the right ones. Well, lucky you. I’d hold them to that price if I were you.”
“I’m afraid I’m having the whiskey.”
A week later the agent picks up the paper and reads of the mysterious death of a man at a Zurich hotel. He fell out of the window in his room. It’s the fellow who was sitting next to him. He has no idea what this means. Whether the KGB agent had identified him on the plane and had his men follow the fellow who was chatting with you. A crude bit of tradecraft. Unlikely. But not impossible.
Another agent thought the employer was trying to reassemble all the bits and pieces of a memorable trip he took. Another thought he was just a collector, nothing more. None of them knew anything for sure.
No, it’s probably not the only one left. There’s another in the company archives. It’s in a flat box stored in a climate controlled vault. It was filed away in 1975. It was brought out in 2016, as part of the company’s digitization of its archives. It had been slumbering undisturbed for 41 years, and then it was out in the light, the photons bouncing off the images and striking a human eye, where a complex process of chemicals and electricity brought the image to the part of the brain that assembles and processes. The person who scanned it didn’t spent much time looking at it - he slapped it on the scanner bed, one pass, two - then back in the box. He spent more time on the scanned image, straightening it, tagging it, naming it.
And then it went back into digital darkness, waiting for the day someone decided to request permission to the archives for a story on in-flight menus, which appeared on a website but didn't get many hits because the headlines wasn't talky or buzzy enough.
Now you've seen it, and now you know about something, and we had slight amusement speculating about it, and one more piece gets the grey-dot tag to indicate "scanned and posted." It may never have a moment on the internet again, but it had one, and this was that.
That was one piece. I scanned 87 more.
I like the typefaces.
A rote movie that hits all the notes with rote craftsmanship/ It begins in the Olden Times when boys wore socks and short pants, and we meet the sons of a local lawman. A mob shoots dad when he tries to stop a lynching, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.
Hey, do you think they might have different personalities?
Do you think they might . . . end up on different sides of the law?
I mean it’s POSSIBLE.
A montage ought to help us here.
Interesting how they knew - because of course they did - how typefaces indicate a time and mood.
For our next clip: I don’t ever think I’ve seen a shot like this. Not sure it’s good, but it’s different, and sometimes that’s enough. They’re reporters, pumping the desk clerk for info on a guest, a State Senator. It's shot from behind for a long time. The framing lets the director center on the clerk, who provides a transition to the next shot by looking to the spot where the Big Boss will arrive.
Otto Kruger, with all his malicious charisma.
The boss helps the idealistic berotherbecome governor, but the Guv insists on being his own man, a crusader, a clean pol. He also falls in love with a reporter. And then . . . TWIST, which had been foreshadowed, and it casts the story in a different light.
It’s a slight thing. Thanks to Kruger, it’s worth it.
That'll do: off on another week of stuff, and I hope you enjoy it.